Ethan Hawes is savouring every moment playing for the Oceanside Generals.
And he has every reason to feel that way.
The 20-year-old, who was born and raised in Australia, was recruited last summer to join the Generals’ defensive unit. He had no idea what he was getting into. For him, it was just a golden opportunity to play junior hockey in Canada and to use the experience to improve his hockey skills.
Hawes is getting more than that.
The blueliner is now part of the red-hot Generals, who have just clinch the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League 2023 regular season title and are now gunning for more success in the playoffs and provincial championships.
“It’s crazy,” said Hawes. “If you asked me a year ago if I’d find myself in Nanaimo and Parksville playing hockey, it would be a shock to me. But I am really glad to be here with such a great team. And who could ever thought we would have the success that we’re having as a team. It’s really, really exciting to be here. I couldn’t have picked a better spot. I am pretty lucky there.”
In the 2021-2022 season, the Generals fell short of their goal when they lost in the finals to the Peninsula Panthers. This season, the Generals are again making a strong bid for the Brent Patterson Memorial Trophy as VIJHL champions. They just set a new VIJHL win streak record with their 19th consecutive victory recently when they beat the Westshore Wolves 7-5 on Feb. 11.
Hawes said he intends to make the most of his time with the Generals by helping the team bring home the VIJHL title.
“I want to win a championship and I know these boys want to win just as bad as me,” said Hawes. “They made a deep playoff last season and came pretty close, but they didn’t get it then. So it’s the only thing in our minds and it’s definitely our one focus and our one goal.”
Hawes learned how to play hockey at the age of eight-years-old in Washington State when his parents moved to Seattle to work there. He said he didn’t like it at first, but eventually grew to love it, motivating him to develop more his skills and passion for the game.
A couple of years ago, Hawes was recruited by the Wenatchee Wild in the British Columbia Hockey League, but due to the pandemic the season was cancelled. He got another opportunity to join Tri-City Americans in the Western Hockey League, but it didn’t work out as well.
Last summer, Hawes returned to Australia and joined the men’s pro league with the Newcastle Northstars in the Australian Ice Hockey League. He helped guide the Northstars to the finals and went on to be named AIHL Rookie of the Year. He was also voted the Northstars’ top defenceman.
One of the coaches for the Newcastle Northstars, Kevin Noble, who played for the Alberni Valley Bulldogs in the BCHL in the 2005-2006 season, is acquainted with Oceanside Generals general manager Rick Hannibal and asked Hawes if he was interested in playing for the team.
Hawes jumped at the opportunity. He had some major help making it to Parksville. He is thankful to Michael and Montana Murphy, who are avid supporters of the Northstars and were Hawes’ sponsors during his stint with the team.
“He’s a really mature kid with a great focus on where he wants to be in ice hockey,” said Michael, who was in Parksville with his wife and daughter Jenn two weeks ago to watch Hawes play. “So we said, ‘we can help this kid and give him a little help financially along the way.’”
“He is just a really nice young man and we took an interest in him,” said Montana. “He is a genuine, very mature young man. Always spends time with the children. He is a great role model for Australian hockey.”
Watching the actual game, the Murphys marvelled at the high energy, fast-moving Canadian style of hockey.
“It’s a bit more organized in Australia while over here, it’s only juniors, but it’s sort of like bang, crash … they’re just like wild,” Montana said. “I know it took Hawes a bit to get use to that. It’s completely different hockey. We’re all loving it. It’s so much better being here than watching it on Hockey TV.”
The Murphys had the opportunity to witness Hawes score his first two goals in the VIJHL. And they’re saying it has to do with the new skates that they got for him.
“It didn’t happen until we got here,” said Montana. “He had a different pair of skates. His feet were really bad so we just had custom-made skates for him and he feels great now. Since he got them on the very first day, he scored two goals.”
Hawes said he has no words to express how grateful he is to the Murphys. He feels blessed to have them as his sponsor and is grateful for the faith they have in him and his hockey quest.
“I tell them as much as I can how much I appreciate them,” said Hawes. “Because seriously, it’s not everyday you meet people like that as genuinely kind-hearted as they are. Flying across the country to support me and watch hockey, you can tell that they love it and I am thankful I have people like that in my life. I am really fortunate to have them, not only supporting me but coming over and watch the games.”
Hawes feels blessed to be given the opportunity to pursue his hockey dream in Parksville. He can’t wait to share what he has learned and experienced to his mates and to many young players back home.
“It would be a nice souvenir the bring back home (a VIJHL title),” said Hawes. “I can tell everyone it was a successful season. It would really be satisfying to bring that back to Australia and show everyone that Australians can go overseas and have success. It’s all about that for me at this point, kind of being a good role model to the younger Australians who want to have success playing ice hockey that’s not very well-known there. It would be huge for me to have success and bring it home.”
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